A fast-moving, aggressive wildfire tore through Southern California Monday night and into Tuesday morning as 500 firefighters struggled to battle flames officials described as “out of control.”
The brush fire began just north of Santa Paula in Ventura County and burned through at least 31,000 acres through the county’s city limits toward Highway 33, according to an early morning statement from Ventura officials.
The rampant fire, burning just north of Los Angeles, forced at least 27,000 people to evacuate and destroyed at least 150 structures — including one apartment complex that eventually collapsed, officials told the Los Angeles Times. One firefighter was injured, though his or her condition is unclear. About 180,000 residents in Ventura County and another 83,000 others in Santa Barbara lost power because of the fire, according to Southern California Edison.
Containment efforts were particularly difficult Monday evening as the fire — fueled by Santa Ana winds and dry brush — moved rapidly. Firefighters were unable to use containment mechanisms from the air — like helicopters dropping water and airliners that drop retardant to make containment lines — most of the evening due to safety risks and visibility issues.
“The prospects for containment are not good,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mike Lorenzen said at a news conference early Tuesday morning. “Really, Mother Nature is going to decide if we have the ability to put it out because it is pushing hard.”
Officials anticipate the fire to continue to grow into Tuesday as winds increase — and this map from state and local fire officials shows where the fire is burning.
Called the Thomas Fire, the active blaze follows a record year of destruction for the California fire season. In October, a number of fires in Northern California’s wine country killed more than 40 people and destroyed around 10,000 structures. Aggressive fires are typical for the month of October, as dry vegetation and seasonal winds fuel fast-moving flames.
While other states may be experiencing the beginnings of winter with snow and cooler temperatures, Southern California endures Santa Ana winds, which, along with dry vegetation, are a key agent for wildfires to spread quickly — and dangerously.